Texas Invests in Thin-film Solar Factory for Austin

AUSTIN, Texas, April 17, 2008 (ENS) – The state of Texas will invest $1 million in HelioVolt Corp. of Austin for the construction of a 125,000 square foot manufacturing facility and development space to test and produce the company’s thin-film solar power cells, which convert sunlight into electricity.

The company will manufacture a new type of seamlessly solarized building materials and architectural modules to cover structures with a solar skin.

The investment will come through the Texas Enterprise Fund, TEF, a multi-million dollar business incentive fund created by state legislation in 2003 and refilled in 2005 and 2007.

“Texas is the place to grow a business thanks to our mix of a reasonable regulatory environment, an educated workforce, and a variety of economic incentives that bolster our stature in the global marketplace,” said Governor Rick Perry announcing the HelioVolt funding on Tuesday.

“HelioVolt’s investment in this alternative energy technology will not only create more jobs in Texas but also help our state remain at the forefront of the renewable energy market,” said the governor. These advances will also help decrease our dependence on foreign energy sources.”

Texas was in competition with New York, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania for the facility.

HelioVolt chief executive and founder Dr. B.J. Stanbery said, “Governor Perry’s support of clean energy technologies, innovative companies and job creation through the Texas Enterprise Fund is a sign that he understands the critical role new approaches to energy generation will play in the future economic success of Texas.”

HelioVolt, founded in 2001, is pioneering the use of thin-film solar materials made from an alloy called copper indium gallium selenide, or CIGS, that are 100 times thinner than traditional silicon solar cells.

“Incentives such as the TEF award were instrumental in our decision to locate our first manufacturing and testing facility in Austin,” said Stanbery, who invented the HelioVolt process, which is based on rapid semiconductor printing.

HelioVolt process prints CIGS coating onto
building materials. (Photo
courtesy HelioVolt)

The proprietary HelioVolt process called FASST™ is a high-speed, cost-effective process for manufacturing thin-film photovoltaics using CIGS. FASST™ prints the CIGS coating directly onto a wide variety of substrates.

The CIGS coating can be embedded in roofing materials, glass and cladding, sunshades and canopies, skylights and modules. The new material absorbs more sunlight and is less expensive to produce than traditional silicon technology.

HelioVolt’s first factory, to be located in Austin’s Expo Business Park, will have an initial production capacity of 20 megawatts with the ability to expand as the company increases production.

Manufacturing silicon cells today costs roughly $3 a watt. The interest in HelioVolt is driven by belief that the company eventually can streamline the manufacturing process to produce solar cells at $1 per watt, a target that silicon and thin film producers are both aiming for.

Construction of the company’s new facility will be financed by the company’s Series B funding round, which closed late last year at $101 million, making it the largest solar technology venture capital round to date, HelioVolt said in a statement.

“A clear clean technology leader right here in our backyard, HelioVolt has already proven itself something of an Austin hero to this community that prides itself in its commitment to both clean energy and technological innovation,” said Austin Mayor Will Wynn. HelioVolt expects the new factory to create more than 150 additional jobs in the region.

HelioVolt is not alone in the CIGS marketplace. Based in Silicon Valley, Nanosolar, Inc. is already printing thin-film solar materials with its nanoparticle ink and roll-printing technology and has received about $20 million from the U.S. Energy Department for development in addition to private funding.

Global Solar Energy, opened its new 40 megawatts CIGS factory in Tucson, Arizona in March. Global Solar is breaking ground on what will be one of the world’s largest CIGS solar fields, at 750 kilowatts (kW), and commissioning its 35 MW plant in Berlin, Germany to open in fall 2008.

Worldwide silicon based solar technologies continue to dominate at more than 94 percent of the market share, with the share of thin-film at less than six percent, according to a 2007 report by the National Renewable Energy Lab.

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